Instead of sneaking in for free at half time I reluctantly forked out £15 to watch the whole game today. This was the first time in many years that I’ve watched a Sutton United first half, indeed I think the last time I paid to get in it was sixpence. I think my cheapskate strategy been rumbled. This season security has noticeably increased and the gates are no longer opened at half-time for freeloaders like me. This could be a result of my tactics becoming common knowledge and whilst recent second half attendances have been averaging over 2000, first half attendances are now averaging 6.

I have long contended that nothing much happens in the first half anyway, and my case was proven today when it was a predictable 0-0 at half time. All the goals were in the second-half, so that was £15 down the pan. On the plus side it didn’t piss it down during the first half. If Sutton United could guarantee that in the future then I might pay the entrance fee more often.

The other reason I paid out good money today was that the game kicked-off at 12.30pm thus knackering my usual Saturday routine of a nice lay-in, followed by a slow wander down to the pub to watch an afternoon’s horse racing on the telly, and then mooching down to the ground for a freebie second half of live football.

sutton united v dagenham and redbridge b www.johnnyspangles.comThere were a number of cameras at the ground, so I assume it was on the telly and hence the inconvenient kick-off time. Although the cameras could have been there to facilitate this new-fangled VAR (Video Assistant Referee) that English football is currently getting its knickers in a twist about. The referee (and presumably his VAR) missed a blatant handball in the box by a Dagenham player, so the half-time entertainment was provided by the Sutton fans publicly hanging a cameraman (see pic).

It has to be said that the referee wasn’t the greatest. Following the handball incident I heard one fan shout, ‘There’s a village somewhere that’s missing its idiot’. At half time I did some internet research and, if that fan is reading this, I can tell you that it is Ditchling in Sussex that is missing an idiot. He went missing last Michaelmas after their annual Idiot Baiting Festival.

Things have changed at Sutton United. Firstly there is fan segregation at a lot of games and they have built a couple of big gates to enforce their imprisonment. On the plus side it did stop the handful of Dagenham fans getting into the wrong pie queue, but on the downside I think it is all this draconian nonsense that has restricted my free and easy access to the ground at half-time.

They’re also attempting to get everyone to start calling the ground the ‘The Knights Community Stadium’, which really trips off the tongue, instead of the traditional ‘Gander Green Lane’. The latter did have the benefit of saying where it is without googling. The consequence of this is that when we play a team from a third world part of Britain with no internet access, like Essex, the away fans can’t find the ground. And there is no point in asking the locals for directions, we haven’t a clue where the ‘Knights Community Stadium’ is either.

sutton united v dagenham and redbridge a www.johnnyspangles.comProbably one of the most controversial changes is how they’ve reconstructed one of their stands. If you remember wooden stands were banned at English football grounds as they represented a fire risk. Sutton United have found a loophole in this ruling, the key word being ‘wood’.  Any club that had a stand made of solid mahogany or ebony had to demolish them immediately, however Sutton see nothing in the rules that restricts the use of chipboard (see pic). Whether they’ve got the better of the rulings with a cheaper alternative or not is a moot point as the stand was reduced to a pile of mush after the heavens opened in the second half.

The second half (£7.50 as opposed to free) did prove more entertaining and Sutton managed to score a couple of goals, despite the referee’s best efforts, and despite nearly blowing it in the last ten minutes they hung on for a 2-1 victory. The previous sentence is my in-depth analysis of the game. I trust you weren’t really expecting anything better than that. Apparently it was on the telly so no doubt you can watch the whole thing on BT catch-up anyway. Or look over the shoulder of somebody who pays for the service.

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